Back in the days before I had children, I used to look down my nose at certain moms--you know the ones--those mothers who do all sorts of horrible things. Those were things I absolutely KNEW I would NEVER do to my children. Let me make a list.
I would never...
Lick my finger and use it to clean a spot off my child's face.
Let my child eat something that had fallen on the floor
Allow my child to leave the house in dirty or mismatched clothing
Go 24 hours without brushing my child's hair
Buy character apparel for my child
Let my children older than age 2 wear velcro shoes
Put my child in public school
Use my bare fingers to wipe my child's nose or drool
Let my young daughter wear nail polish in any color other than pastels
And then I became a mother. It was only a matter of time until my list of "nevers" would bite the dust. It is amazing how actually having living, breathing children of your own can change your perspective. I have used my licked finger to remove many a smudge from my children's faces. Sometimes the smudge is more offensive than the spit finger! How do you console a crying child who is devastated by the fact that their piece of candy has fallen on the floor? You pick it up, dust it off, and let them eat it, of course...so long as the floor is clean and dry, and that no more than 10 seconds has passed since the food hit the floor. Yes, I have become a practicer of the 10-second rule. I still think character apparel is obnoxious, but I have a son who adores Spiderman. I've let that one slide because all I can think of is the joy on Pepper's face when he puts on his Spiderman shirt...or hat...or swim trunks...or socks...or coat...or sweatshirt...or slippers...or pajamas...okay, you get the idea! And then comes the dirty or mismatched clothes issue. I still don't like it, and I really try to avoid letting my kids leave the house in an outfit that isn't clean. Sometimes though, whether or not Pepper's pants are sparkling is the least of my concerns when I'm trying to get out the door. As for public school? I can honestly say that putting Snapper in public school this year has been the best decision we would have made for her. She is thriving, and we have had some fantastic conversations about spiritual issues that she wouldn't have encountered at home or in a Christian school. Oh, and nail polish? Snapper's nails were bright red today, and she looked feminine and adorable.
So my list is toast...except for one thing. There was one thing I swore I would never do: I swore I would never, under any circumstances, yell at my child in public. I am proud to say I managed to get a whole 7 1/2 years of yell-free-in-public parenting under my belt. And then came a experience that has forever destroyed that record.
The setting: Wolfchase Mall in Memphis, Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon.
The mission: To find a pretty Easter dress for Snapper, and to grab lunch on the way out.
The players: Snapper and Me.
A single stop at The Children's Place and a swing through Wendy's at the food court completed our mission. Snapper and I made a quick potty stop before heading to the car. I went into my stall with my Coke and my purse. Snapper went into her stall with her new dress in the Children's Place bag, and her cup of Hi-C red fruit punch. I finished first, and as I was washing my hands, Snapper emerged from her stall with her Children's Place bag, but no cup. She sauntered over to the sink, swinging the bag in large circles. I casually asked her what she had done with her drink.
"I didn't want to hold it anymore, Mom, so I put it in the bag with my new dress!"
Before I had the time to bite my tongue, I shrieked, "YOU WHAT? WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING??????" At that moment, all I could see was a horrifying vision of the pretty, overpriced, new dress soaking in a bag full of Hi-C red fruit punch.
Reality hit Snapper like a ton of bricks, and she burst into tears. Again, I screeched, "WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING? I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WOULD DO THAT! WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU DO THAT?"
At that point, I looked up and noticed that all the other women in the restroom---there were 4 of them--were looking synpathetically at my weeping child, and the shooting me down with glares that could kill. Then I did what any good mother should do...I stood up tall, looked those meddling women straight in their flashing eyes and said very firmly, "This girl of mine put her full cup of Hi-C red fruit punch in the bag with her new dress, and then swung the bag all over the place!"
And just like that, a wave of understanding swept through that bathroom, and every woman simultaneously said, "Ohhhhhhhh!" With smiles of sympathy toward me, they returned to primping and washing their hands. I was restored to my place of righteous indignation.
Snapper continued to cry hysterically, and I took the bag from her, dreading what I would find when I opened it. Sure enough, there was fruit punch all over the dress. I held out that bag for her to look in, and again I said (not quite yelling, but still pretty loud), "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? WHAT IN THE WORLD POSSESSED YOU TO PUT YOUR RED DRINK IN THE BAG WITH YOUR EXPENSIVE NEW DRESS?"
Ah, the logic of a 7-year-old: "It had a lid on it, Mom. I didn't think it would leak."
Oh child of mine, how in the world is it that you have the highest test scores in your entire grade, and were recently commended by the Gifted and Talented teacher for your advanced logic and problem solving skills...and yet you can't figure out that a paper Wendy's cup with a flimsy plastic lid WITH a straw in it will leak? And will come apart? And will spill nasty, sticky, staining, red punch all over the place? Especially if you spin the bag around and around in the air!
I shook my head in amazement, grabbed that girl by the hand, and headed for the car. Snapper had the good sense to quit bawling and remain quiet until we reached the car. By then, I had calmed down again. My ears had quit blowing steam and my face had returned to a normal color. I apologized for yelling at her, and we headed home.